The clean lines of Nordic design and cool furniture makes this venerable Scandinavian restaurant feel very modern, with dark wood tones lending warmth, and cherry blossoms in vases offering a minimalist touch. The restaurant's homemade aquavits are displayed along the wall, like pieces of art, in luminous square tankards. With an upscale business crowd in the dining room and more casual diners in the newly re-positioned cafe, Aquavit feels like the quintessential Euro restaurant in NYC.
Chef Marcus Samuelsson's excellent dishes nourish the palate with the delicate simplicity of the Scandinavian aesthetic. Foie gras ganache--cake with a gooey, duck liver center--combines wonderfully with octopus and smoked trout companions; hot smoked arctic char is enhanced by the sharpness of a green apple horseradish broth and the earthiness of black truffles and grilled asparagus; a "lobster roll" features shellfish neatly wrapped in a thin layer of tart green apple. For a closer, a goat cheese parfait with blueberry sorbet lends a light touch to the meal that never makes it feel weighty.
Samuelsson has stocked the café menu with traditional Swedish favorites such as Beef Rydberg (diced sirloin with sweet onions and raw egg), bites of herring flavored with vodka or curry and apples, and an eccentric, salty-sweet mound of egg salad and anchovies called "Gentleman's Delight." Of course, there are the aquavits. The oddest of the flavors is roasted-pumpkin-and-espresso.